David de Gea Spain decision could be a sign of things to come at Manchester United – Tyrone Marshall

When the votes are tallied for Manchester United’s player of the season in May only Cristiano Ronaldo can prevent David de Gea from having to find room for a fifth Sir Matt Busby trophy.

De Gea has been back to his best for United in 2021/22, although once again his best form for the club has come during a campaign everyone wants to forget.

It’s inevitable that goalkeepers will get the chance to shine in an underperforming team and De Gea has thrived on the work he’s had to do this season.

READ MORE: Enrique hints why De Gea has been left out of Spain squad

Only the constantly-unprotected Islan Meslier has made more saves in the Premier League this season than De Gea and the Spaniard’s strengths – being an outstanding shot-stopper – have been needed during a campaign when United’s defense has been leakier than the Old Trafford roof.

The 31-year-old has taken on more leadership duties over the previous 18 months as well and he was the player who conducted post-match interviews on Tuesday, after his reunion with Atletico Madrid had ended in a Champions League exit at the last- 16.

De Gea looked forlorn as he sat in the press room in the Sir Bobby Charlton stand, but a bad week got worse on Friday when his name was absent for the Spain squad for games against Albania and Iceland during this international break.

Ahead of the first leg of the tie with Atletico three weeks away De Gea might have seen this two-legged fixture as a chance to remind people in his home country of his own talents, having not played for Spain since his error against Ukraine in October 2020 led to a 1-0 Nations League defeat.

De Gea was caught out of position for Viktor Tsygankov’s goal that day, struggling to adapt to the high line played by Luis Enrique’s international side, compared to the role he still fulfills for United. Enrique was defensive of De Gea after the game but he’s not given him the chance to add to his 45 caps di lui since then and has now axed him entirely from his squad.

Athletic Bilbao’s Unai Simon has taken over as first-choice since then, but now Brighton’s Robert Sanchez and Brentford goalkeeper David Raya are being selected ahead of De Gea, which must hurt for a player who has 478 games for United under his belt.

In explaining his selections Enrique stressed that Raya had the “necessary profile” for the Spain squad.

“It is part of the tracing we do with the goalkeepers. He is a player who is doing very well,” he said. “I really want to see it in the context of the selection. He has the necessary profile to play with us.”

That might suggest that De Gea doesn’t have the right profile and there have been questions about his ability with his feet and sweeping behind a high line for a while, but speaking to the Manchester Evening News last month his former United coach Eric Steele suggested that wasn’t the case.

“I disagree that he’s an old-fashioned goalkeeper, he’s got the ability in possession to pick the passes, play around and play long, but when is he asked to do that ?,” said Steele.

“David has got a side-volley the same, but Man United don’t play the same way, he doesn’t get the opportunity Ederson gets. City suck teams in very cleverly and then it’s one touch out of feet and he can hit that 60-yard ball.

“I can show you clips of David doing that sort of distribution but he’s not being asked to do that because they don’t seem to hit space in behind. He’s got that ability.”

Others appear to be coming to a different conclusion, however, and De Gea’s absence from the Spain squad feels like it could be a more permanent changing of the guard.

The question now is whether it affects his United future. He started this season as No. 1 after Dean Henderson’s battles with Covid-19 in the summer and his form has meant he’s never been under pressure, but when the new manager takes his post this summer he will have to assess whether De Gea fits the profile for his team.

Erik ten Hag, certainly, wants a goalkeeper who can play with his feet and sweep high and he had some interest in Henderson in the January transfer window.

There are not many managers at the very highest level who don’t demand more from their goalkeeper now and that could be a challenge for De Gea this summer, as Enrique’s latest selection hints at.

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